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After all my NaNo prep the past couple of weeks, there’s one thing I forgot to do: prep for my own NaNo novel!

It’s absolutely my fault. In fact, I have been trying so hard to finish the second draft of my novel, Spurn the Moon, that I’ve put off all other writing in order to do so. I was hoping to have it finished by the end of October, but it’s not going to happen. I just got too wordy with it and scenes that I didn’t expect to expand did just that.

So what do you do when all your prepping (or lack thereof) fails you?

Brainstorm

This is really the basic step necessary before you can even outline. What do I want to write about? Who are the characters? What is the story?

I need to consider the tone I’m aiming for, the theme I’m trying to convey, maybe even what subject I want to focus on.

But I need more than a topic, I need a story. I need more than a setting, I need a story within that setting. True, great stories can begin with either a topic or a setting, but it has to go beyond that, and that’s where brainstorming comes in.

So pull out the journals and pens and start scribbling however you brainstorm best.

Lost? Here’s an article on different methods of brainstorming.

Character Interview

So maybe you’ve brainstormed all you need to now and you have more than enough ideas to fill your pages. We’ve all been there. You’ve got a thousand ideas and you only needed one. Maybe it’s time to focus on characters now.

Choose your best idea(s) and consider what kind of character will be best for that scenario. Do you need a demure woman or a kick-@$$ hero? What do they look like? What do they act like when they’re confronted? Or when their friend (or enemy) is being passive-aggressive with them? How do they act with kids?

When I’m struggling with a character, or even struggling to come up with a character at all, an interview can work wonders to pull out information from them. Sit down with them and start asking questions. If you’re struggling with a certain scene, this can work wonders for giving you insight into their mind and writing yourself out of a block.

Here’s another link from K.M. Weiland with 100+ questions for your character.

Give it a try. Tell me how it works for you.

Outline

For me, outlining is something that has to happen once the general idea is in place. Once I know my characters, the story I want to tell, and roughly how I want to tell it, then I can outline, not before.

After I’ve brainstormed my ideas, figured out my characters and given them names, then I can start thinking about hooks, inciting events, plot points, climaxes, and resolutions. Only then can I understand how my character fits into these scenarios.

It’s at this point that I try to make the structure of my novel as strong as possible and begin to put plot points in order.

Confused about plot points? Check out K.M. Weiland’s excellent blog posts on story structure.

Summarize

Say you’ve already done the above and you’re really just facing writer’s block. You know what you have to write, and even how you have to write it, but you just can’t write it.

Something that really loosens my inner writing cogs is to summarize the scenes I know I have to write. There is less pressure about writing a summary of a scene than the scene itself. You don’t have to get the words right, you just have to get the actions right.

Give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.